Hindsight is Always Twenty-Twenty

I am so relieved that my plans to return to Russia in January are becoming more and more finalized! And everything is going in the right direction, things are happening as they should be, and on top of it all I’m actually starting to feel very happy that I ended up coming home back in January because it made things happen that left me off in a much better place now – things that I am pretty sure would not have happened had I not come back when I did.

I don’t believe in fate but it’s becoming more and more difficult for me to deny that everything always works out in the end. Historically – in my own history – that is the way it’s always been. Like I said, I don’t believe in fate; what I do believe in is my ability to make good decisions. I am learning to trust myself and my decisions, now more than ever! And as for the old adage, “everything happens for a reason”? Well, yeah, it does. But not because some mysterious force makes it that way. Because when you’re entirely dedicated to a cause, no matter what that cause may be, you find yourself engaged in working toward that cause not only actively, but passively as well. Add up all of the big and all of the most miniscule decisions you make; throw in a good amount of coincidence; add a pinch of things outside of your control; and sprinkle it all with your unyielding efforts to make what you will of it and work around what ever you cannot work with or work through – and there you are, everything happens for a reason.

It’s time we started giving ourselves credit for all of the awesome things we do. I, for one, have learned to expect the best of myself. Well, why shouldn’t I? Why shouldn’t anyone?

Things work out best for those who make the best of how things work out.

-John Wooden

Happy New Years! 2013, Here We Come!

Happy New Years! 2013, Here We Come!

I wish you all a happy, successful, fulfilling, enlightening, productive, enriching, exciting, and wonderful new year! Here’s to 2013 being a year of progress, learning, and improvement in all area of ourselves. In 2013, want to take steps to be … Continue reading

A Birthday of Firsts and The Best Parents Ever

A Birthday of Firsts and The Best Parents Ever

Good morning to all those on my side of the world, good night to those on the other! This morning I woke up 20 years old – my first day as a not-teenager and my first day in my new … Continue reading

How to Feel Good, Be Happy, and Succeed

Today I’ve woken up refreshed and ready to go back to class tomorrow morning to finish off the week with a bang and lead into a start of a great new week tomorrow and all the weeks thereafter!

Without going into much detail, I’ve been having quite a rough week – of course, I had prepared myself ahead of time before I came here that there would be days where I might feel doubtful of myself, even hateful toward myself, or something so crazy as wanting to give up for a fleeting moment, or longer. Still, while knowing to expect it made it less of a shock for me when I experienced my first real wave of anxiety yesterday, it didn’t make it any less uncomfortable, scary, or any easier to get rid of! At the time I felt like my world might crumble and I just didn’t know what to do.

Now? I’m totally better! Exhaustion built up over the physical stress I was already in (lots of new movements, many very sore muscles, and even something so seemingly trivial as switching the hours I am used to dancing from evening time to morning/day time!) and it all got to me yesterday, but I finally was able to get some rest yesterday and today and I feel 100% better. I have none of the doubt I had a mere 24-hours ago and I have all of the determination, will, and desire to keep going that had originally got me to this school in the first place! I can say with confidence and ease that, Yes! I want to be a ballerina!

I was thinking of something, though, and I wanted to ask my followers for some help. I realized that even though I feel really good now, I need to remember that I will have bad days again. That’s just part of life – especially this kind of life. And I think I realize now that instead of getting more stressed out by trying to fix it and get mad at myself for “allowing” myself to have bad days, I need to just let them pass and do what I can to feel as good as I can possibly feel!

I’m making a list of feel-good ‘things’ that I can do, sort of like a plan to make it easier to do what makes me feel good. Getting enough good-quality sleep is at the top of my list, although I’m still trying to figure out ways to make that happen! Having good music to listen to is also something I realized is really uplifting and important to me. Happy stuff, to pump me up and get myself excited! Going out for a walk, as well as working out – this gives me at least 30 min of uninterrupted ”me-time” to think about anything and everything that may be on my mind (and my guess is that this will probably make it easier to fall asleep, too!) 

So I thought it would be a brilliant idea to turn to all of you guys for suggestions!

What does your feel-good list consist of?
Do you have any tips for keeping up your spirits when things become overwhelming, as they occasionally do?
What’s your favorite way to relieve stress?
What your favorite way to prevent stress?
What is your feel-good playlist?
Tips for better sleep?

I really want to hear everyone’s replies, but I want to be able to get advice from a wide range of people – the more ideas, the better, in my book! So rather than have people reply to this post, I will be creating a follow-up post which will be a re-blog type of post. The more it is re-blogged, the more ideas we will all have, and the happier we will be =D 

If you do not have a Tumblr account but still would like to contribute, please do so! Just leave a reply here, or use my Ask box. 

P.S. If someone wants to create a feel-good playlist for me or a CD and send it in the mail, I would totally not object ^_^ Am I being too obvious here? Haha! 

3 Weeks and a Reflection

Yesterday evening I performed as a guest artist with Susan Chambers Dance Company in their concert. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to test out my variations on stage prior to performing them at YAGP!

Backstage with my coach in between variations

Stage make up!

For the most part, it went well – I made no major errors in my dancing, and I did thoroughly enjoy it, which was very important for me (and I therefore feel it was a success in at least one way!) Technically, my performance was not where it should have been – or, not where it needs to be for YAGP! While of course I could – and should – have done better, I think it was far from a failed performance! In fact, I feel that it was successful in another way, too. If you look back through some of my other posts, you will come across several mentions of the mentality I must have behind my dancing; one area of big focus recently has been learning not to be nervous [and then everything that goes along with, and is related to, this skill]. I am really happy to announce that I’m starting to really develop this skill! Yesterday I was not nervous, I was no excited – no, I was very calm, cool, and collected, and this is exactly as it should be! After all, this is my life! Just an ordinary day, an ordinary performance, no big deal at all 🙂

Still, there is no denying that I have a lot of work yet to be done!

I have 3 weeks now to really push myself to my limits, and I assure you I intend to do nothing less than my best! And when I have the intentions of doing something, I DO IT, no matter what!

In thinking about what exactly went wrong that made my performance anything less than perfect yesterday, and in an effort to do all I can to fix my faults and do it perfectly at YAGP (and from here on forward), I was able to gather a few ‘key points’ which I can now use to make some plans for how I will best put these next 3 weeks to good use. 3 weeks is a lot of time – if I use my time wisely and efficientlly!

Problem 1: I have been treating rehearsals and stage performances differently, taking a different approach to them and going in with a different frame of mind – and it should not be so! To further expand, I have been doing this in two ways: the first is that when I am dancing during rehearsal, the thought running through my head is, “It’s only rehearsal – if I mess up I can do it again – so I will take this ‘risk’ and push myself to do a triple pirouette and go above and beyond each time,” which is not a bad way to think in and of itself; however, the problem presents itself when this frame of mind is contrasted with the one running through my head while on stage, in which I find myself thinking, “Oh! It’s the real thing now, I’m on stage, and so I must do it well, I must not mess up, or else!” This translates into self-doubt, which results in me being cautious and careful – and I end up not doing nearly as well, both because I am doing, for example, less rotations in my turns, and also because any self-doubt peaks out under all that makeup and shows itself in my performance (and that’s very bad indeed)!

The second way in which Problem 1 comes about is my laziness. Wait, what?! Yep, I said it – laziness. Now, ‘lazy’ is the last adjective anyone, including myself, would use to describe me, but I feel that there is no better word to explain what is going on here. You see, I get tired – exhausted, actually! – during rehearsals…understandably so, considering I usually have rehearsals after classes and it’s late at night. But  understandable is not excusable! I tend to let any fatigue get the best of me, and I submit to [incredibly false] self-reassurances that, “Oh, it’s alright – I’ll do it better on stage, I’ll have enough energy and adrenaline then to  really do it full out!” Of course, this couldn’t be farther from the truth! In fact, it’s completely the opposite – I need to KILL myself in rehearsal so that when I get to the stage I don’t need to give a second thought to have enough energy and adrenaline to get through the variation full out. Common sense – but it seems to escape me when I am aching and tired! Not anymore, though.

Solution 1:

  1. Treat rehearsals and performance the same exact way. They are the same exact anyway! Each rehearsal must be done as if I am on stage, and each performance will in turn be done the same as if I were in rehearsal. Not only will that result in a better performance (and overall better strength and stamina), but emotionally I will also be much improved. Technically and energy-wise, I will be stronger because of having practiced it  completely full out each and every time at rehearsal; and artistically, and emotionally, I will be stronger because of me going in with the same attitude on stage as I take with me into rehearsals – so there is no need to fear the stage any more than there is a need to fear rehearsals. Makes sense, don’t you think?
  2. Record myself during rehearsals. This will allow me to see my mistakes – and the good aspects of my dancing!! – for myself, and to better develop my performance. Seeing it for myself will also teach me more about self-correction and applying any corrections, as well as giving myself a better idea of how I actually dance [it’s funny, but now I think about it, I only have a vague “intrinsic” idea of what my dancing is like!] In addition to this, another benefit that goes along with recording myself is that it makes it more ‘equal’ to performances, which just goes back to helping me succeed in treating rehearsals and performances the same exact way, as I wrote about above.
Problem 2: One of my biggest corrections during my variations is my knees – I have trouble controlling them. They are hyperextended, but I tend not to straighten them all the way like they should be in some movements while I’m dancing. So I always need to focus on pulling my knees up and straightening them hard. I would like to do what I can to make this come more easily to me, so that I have to think about it less and that it’s just something that involves more muscle memory than…memory memory 😛 Luckily, there is an easy solution to this!
Solution 2:
  1. Do specific exercises to help strengthen and gain control of my knees.
  2. Be more mindful of my knees during class, and learn to use them properly then so that I can better apply it during rehearsal.
And honestly, I can [and should, and will] apply this same thing to my upper body and my arches, as well.
In these 3 weeks, I also will continue with my weight loss and body goals.
What else am I going to accomplish in these 3 weeks?
I’m going to focus like I have never focused before. This is the real thing, and it’s a very serious thing. There is no room for games, and no room for half-hearted attempts or any hint of hesitation. I’m taking a new approach to my dancing and it does not involve any childish behaviors or jokes.
I’m going to be calm and playful and artistic with my variations, and do them well each time. And I will look like a professional ballerina, not like a shy girl who wants to be a ballerina but is unsure of herself. NO, I am sure of myself and I will show it.
And I have a plan for how I will accomplish all of that! I intend to use every ounce of strength in me and every second of time I have to dedicate myself to this mission of sorts. I am going to try to get access to the studio some mornings so that I can go in by myself and work on everything from my exercises to my variations.
I have 4 days off now from ballet, which for once I am actually happy about and am very grateful to have. I am glad I have this time off because I hope that by resting for four days my body will heal all its injuries, namely my right hamstring. Perhaps my toe will feel better, too. I’m going to do everything I can to rest my body and help it heal – epsom salt baths, sauna, Finalgon…anything and everything to promote healing so that when I come back I can get down to things and work to my bare bones!

And so, the next three weeks are bound to be busy, but also incredibly growth-promoting and I am very much looking forward to perfecting my variations for YAGP!! I know I can do it because I HAVE done it!

I will finish this post with one last snippet of my recent epiphanies: my thought process during the actual variation is skewed from what it should be. I realized this yesterday. I realized that I was thinking about any mistakes I had made when really I needed to be thinking ahead instead! For example, instead of lingering on something that already happened [“my foot was supposed to be higher up in passe in that jump”], I need to forget about everything that I already did and go on to focus on whatever is coming next [“now I’m about to go into the hops in attitude turning around myself, so I have to remember to cross over”]. It’s something that seems like a little detail, but it will make all the difference in the world when I learn how to think ahead correctly instead of leaving my thoughts behind with things that really don’t matter any more! 

With that, I end my post-performance reflections, and I end it feeling much more clear about where I am, what I have to work on, and how I’m going to go about working on it. And I know now that I will be able to give as excellent of a performance as I wish to give by working harder, smarter, and better. Here’s to progress and success! I feel, metaphorically, like I’m plunging head-first into an unfamiliar side of the pool, much deeper. But its deepness only means that there is THAT much more to explore, that much more opportunity, that much more distance I can go further. I DO have the chance now to push myself further than ever and I am taking that chance with more enthusiasm than I’ve ever done anything else with before! And that feels great 🙂

The Problem Cabinet

I take comfort in the thought that happiness would have no value if we had no frustration to compare it to. Still, I am welcoming this good feeling knowing I’m back to normal and happy again with arms wide open!

I should probably clarify what I am talking about. You know those days where you just wake up on the wrong side of the bed, and the whole world seems bleak and gray? Those days when the most mundane tasks seem to require every ounce of effort you can muster? When the thought of all of the things that are to come, all the things you must do, all of the things standing in your way – is terribly daunting and you are so stressed you fear you may pull your hair out? And then one more little problem comes along to sit atop the pile of frustrations you are already feeling, but it’s that one final little problem that throws the pile off balance and it all comes crashing down and buries you underneath it all. You stay stuck under the rubble, unable to get out, for a good few days.

Then finally, seemingly out of the blue, you wake up to find that the pile of rubble you are buried under is not all that heavy, and if you only calmly stood back up you would be able to get out of there and continue with your life. You push off the ground and get back on your feet, dust yourself off, and look down to see your frustrations littered around you, lifeless and unable to do much harm to you.

After taking a few minutes to pick up the frustrations and order them neatly on that shelf in the cabinet in the back of your mind…











…you strut off to continue on the path you were walking down before, your chin up in the air, your head clear, and your confidence emanating through your proud smile and that glow on your face.

That was, in a dramatic analogy, what my weekend was like. Thank goodness for the happy ending! Now if only I could find a way to skip the part where I feel stuck under the pile in the future…but I suppose it’s all part of the dynamic nature of, well, being a human. And really, that of being a ballet dancer. I mean, I might not be as far gone and crazy as Nina Sayers, but even that over-the-top, insane story (which I love, by the way – I am a Black Swan fan!) is based in truth. We ballerinas are crazy, in some sense of the world, for our art. And I don’t think we could make it to the top any other way!emanating through your smile and that glow on your face – you know you can handle anything, one little problem at a time, storing them in the cabinet to wait their turn to be dealt with, on your schedule.

I once heard a quote – unfortunately I cannot remember where, and a Google search has proved unhelpful – about how in order to be a ballerina, you must be a little bit of a masochist. I must say, that rings true in so many ways! And I must disagree with Tamara Rojo, who said, in an interview last summer, that “ballet dancers don’t enjoy the pain. We’re not masochists.” I beg to differ! For a prime example, just try to explain the giddy expression on a young girl’s face after she is bestowed the honor of her first blood blister!

Of course, this is all in good humor, and I am only [half] joking!


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A Good Start

As I sit here reflecting on my day and preparing to put my reflections into words, my legs ache and my back is sore. And that, to me, is the mark of a productive, successful day! All day long I was up and about, just the way I like it.

I woke up fairly early (considering I went to sleep late) at 7:30 and was at physical therapy by 9. My jaws remained clenched during the entirety of my calf massage — I had some huge knots that were very painful to release. The needling that followed the massage was no less uncomfortable, although after both of those treatments my calf, albeit sore, was feeling much better!

After a quick stop at home in which I ate lunch, folded laundry, and cooked a spaghetti squash, I headed over to the gym to get my usual 30 minutes of exercise, followed by a nice long stretch. I even had an audience today! Three of the trainers were watching me stretch and left me blushing through my splits as they commented on my “excellent” flexibility. I have to say, I love stretching at the gym for just this reason! I can stretch just as well, if not better, at home or at the studio, but having someone to impress and knowing that people are watching makes me more inclined to work even harder and show off, and makes the entire process much more fun (especially on days I am so sore I doubted my own abilities to touch my toes…) What can I say, it must be the performer in me!

Right after my workout I headed over to the studio to make use of this week’s opportunities, even though I had class later tonight anyway. At first I considered starting on my own tomorrow, but I was motivated by the prospect of reporting to my ballet teacher that I had already gone to the studio on my own to hint at my enthusiasm, dedication, and determination to work, work, work until I have nothing more to work on (an innacurate commitment only due to the ironic nature of ballet in which we work with the goal of perfection, always aware that perfection can never be reached, there will always be something that can be done better, more perfect.)

So into the studio I tiptoed, unfamiliar with the emptiness of the usually-crowded building. Any hesitation or uncertainty I held flew out the window at once as I turned on my music and started to work my way through the list of my new warm up routine. Save for a few bothersome interruptions by people who were unaware that the studio was closed for Thanksgiving break all week long, I breezed through the new routine and finished it in just over an hour. I am so pleased with it — it’s perfect! I felt completely stretched out after and I love being able to go from one exercise to another very smoothly thanks to the list, instead of pausing between exercises to think about what to do next. I hate that! And so I really am happy I have a list I can refer to again. I feel much better when I know exactly what I’m doing and there is no pause between exercises.

I had originally intended to go straight to ballet (at the other studio) after my private studio time, but as I did only my warm up today I found that I had an hour and a half before I had to make the drive to the other studio, and so I came home for a quick break to relax and take a breather before getting up and moving again!

Ballet was wonderful today! Perhaps because I was properly warmed up? Hmm 😉

But really, I felt very centered today. My pirouettes came together very nicely, I could just feel the turn today. And my ankle had quite the range of motion, probably thanks to the massage and needling I had done earlier this morning at physical therapy. I felt like I made progress instead of just using all my energy to try to keep up with the exercises in class, and I really pushed myself hard today! I was exhausted before we even started barre (understandable considering I has been exercising and dancing all day up until then); to add to the difficulty, the studio was horrible hot and stuffy when we walked in, which made for a very wet me and a difficult time breathing.  But I was able to tackle it all and stay strong! See? I knew that all I needed was a good warm up routine to leave me confident that my mind and body are prepared for class. I could not be more pleased right now 🙂

Besides the usual soreness, I feel wonderful right now. Actually, I quite like the soreness in itself, too. I am so sleepy, ready for a good night’s sleep (and it is very much needed, as I have been lacking in the sleep department for several days now), and I think I might wander off to dream land before my head even touches the pillow! My foot and ankle also feel fine, as does my knee, but I do have some swelling still in my foot and ankle. It just won’t budge! It’s not acute swelling, just residual swelling from the injury that it really just trapped fluids that don’t want to come out. My physical therapists and I decided I would do a course of Aleve for a week (one pill twice a day, 12 hours apart) to really try to hit the swelling hard and push it out of there (once it’s out it should be gone completely). I do not love this idea, because I generally try to stay away from NSAIDs — or any medicine, really — unless I absolutely need it. But it’s been 4 weeks now, other methods have been helpful but not entirely successful, and I really need to have my ankle’s full range of motion in order to add back pointe, which we hope to do by the end of the month. So I agreed to do the one week. Oh, and the one week [of Aleve] starts tomorrow, because this morning I had to take an Advil for a headache I woke up with and I did not want to take an Aleve hardly after I just popped an Advil. Not good!

No pictures or videos for today, I do apologize. I would like to get some soon, but it’s proving to be difficult. Maybe I really need to set my mind to it…I will put it on my to-do list, with other really important things I truly wish to get done. I will try my best to star with the videos (and pictures) soon!